Florida Man Tim Dorsey: Laughing at Florida Man Is Not Only OK—for Floridians, It's Essential | Opinion

This is how my next novel begins:

The rain had just stopped when the convenience store clerk asked the customer not to heat up his urine in the microwave. The customer explained that the urine he was heating wasn't his. Which meant it was Florida.

A previous one started like this:

The sun was going down behind the Big Burger when the alligator came flying in the drive-through window.

This is not fiction.

In the first case, law enforcement detected an unpleasant trend. People began using others' fluid to pass drug tests, but they were getting caught because the samples were too cold. So they had a brainstorm to start submitting 150-degree samples.

The second case was also true, except it was at a Wendy's a couple of miles from my old elementary school in Palm Beach County. The driver's apparent thinking at the time? "Sure, why not?"

What does it all mean? That weirdness has officially passed citrus as our main cash crop. And this is nowhere more singularly personified than in the Sunshine State's Zeitgeist phenomenon called "Florida Man."

If you shun late-night comedians and social media, let me explain. Florida Man began as idle amusement to goof off at work on the company dime. People would entered those two magic words into a search engine and ta-da!

"Florida man impersonates cop to get discount waffles."

"Florida man turns himself in to police for killing imaginary friend."

"Florida man catches huge tarpon while fishing at sea from unicorn pool float."

"Florida man breaks into house, plays with toy helicopter, masturbates."

These are real-life examples.

There are now countless memes, T-shirts and even a Florida Man Challenge (simply Google your birthday and "Florida Man" to proudly discover what brainlessness happened on the day you were born).

But the most famous permutation of all came in 2013, when a "Florida Man" Twitter account was launched for the "world's worst super hero," as if it were all the work of one person. ("Sure, why not?")

Recently, however, a question has arisen, posed most pointedly in a recent Washington Post article: Is it morally acceptable to laugh at Florida Man? After all, there's more than a touch of Schadenfreude in the exercise.

My personal answer: Yes and no. I must confess that as a Floridian and author, it's more than a guilty pleasure of mine. It's also a job. But when I read down the threads of asininity, some of the posts become too cringe-worthy.

The hard lives of the homeless? Not funny. Untreated mental illness. No again. Domestic violence? A hard no.

But drugs? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Very, very funny. As long as you haven't hurt anyone or yourself, it's fair game for the amusement of the internet peanut gallery.

"Florida man calls 911 eighty times for Kool-Aid and weed."

"Florida man tries to pay for McDonald's order with marijuana."

"Florida man caught with drugs in nose claims it wasn't his."

And it's not gender specific: "Florida woman says wind blew cocaine into her purse."

If you follow the trend closely enough, you'll notice that certain themes tend to ebb and flow. A couple of years back, the spike was, uh, going potty in unappreciated sites. So, naturally, it had to go into the book I was writing. As my main character commented, Defecating is like buying real estate. It's all location, location, location.

This year, nudity:

"Naked Florida man eats noodles and plays bongos at Saint Petersburg restaurant."

"Naked Florida man rides bicycle through Interstate 95 traffic."

"Naked Florida man chases customers around Chick-Fil-A parking lot."

"Naked Florida man continues gardening despite pleas from neighbors."

What's not to love?

Alligator Florida Hand
A man puts his hand in the mouth of an alligator during a wildlife show at the Gator Park in the Florida Everglades on May 17, 2006, in Miami-Dade County. Joe Raedle/Getty

For us Floridians, however, there's another dimension. It's personal, as in first person, like permanently residing in a live studio audience for Cops. We need Florida Man. Because if we don't laugh, we'll cry. And if you do call this state your home, you know it's just going to get weirder and weirder without any finish lines.

So where do we go from here?

I'm calling it now: the next viral meme catch phrase.

"Florida Happens."

I think it has legs.

Tim Dorsey was a reporter and editor for the Tampa Tribune from 1987 to 1999 and is the author of 22 novels, including the upcoming Naked Came the Florida Man.

Tim Dorsey book cover small
Florida Man Tim Dorsey: Laughing at Florida Man Is Not Only OK—for Floridians, It's Essential | Opinion | Opinion